The Met Gala Is Tonight – To Celebrate, We’re Revisiting Our Favourite Themes

By Charlie Colville

3 months ago

A look back at some of the best red carpet looks from the last 10 years

The first Monday of May has arrived, which can only mean one thing: the Met Gala is here. Back for another year of red carpet glamour, the event itself is set to start in just a few hours. To celebrate, we’re taking a look back at some of the looks and themes that have defined the Met Gala over the last 10 years.

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Looking Back: Met Gala Themes From The Last 10 Years

Karl Lagerfeld: A Line of Beauty (2023)

Last year, the Met Gala placed a spotlight on German fashion designer Karl Lagerfeld, with an emphasis on his style signatures from the 1950s to his final collection in 2019. Many guests drew on the designer’s monochrome colour palette and elegant style, borrowed garments from Lagerfeld’s archives and even dived into his persona and personal lives with tributes to his cat, Choupette.


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In America: An Anthology of Fashion (2022)

The second half of the Met Gala’s 2021 theme, In America: An Anthology of Fashion similarly focused on exploring fashion in the United States – but this time, with an emphasis on the 19th and 20th century. This was the year a lot of celebs turned up in period-inspired costumes (including host Blake Lively’s Statue of Liberty-themed dress), although a lot of the night’s buzz came from Kim Kardashian who wore a vintage Jean Louis previously worn by Marilyn Monroe in 1962 to sing ‘Happy Birthday’ to President John F. Kennedy.


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In America: A Lexicon of Fashion (2021)

The first instalment in the Met’s two-part American fashion theme, meanwhile, paid tribute to expressive qualities of the medium from the 1940s to present day. The night was defined by ultra-glamour, larger-than-life silhouettes and, in the case of Billie Eilish, sweeping ballgowns.


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About Time: Fashion and Duration (2020)

Unfortunately, the 2020 Met Gala theme was never realised due to the Coronavirus pandemic. The event, which was cancelled, coincided with an exhibition inspired Virginia Woolf and 20th-century French philosopher Henri Bergson. The theme presented a timeline of women’s fashion from the last 150 years to celebrate the museum’s own 150th anniversary.

Camp: Notes on Fashion (2019)

Bring together Anna Wintour, Lady Gaga, Harry Styles, Serena Williams and Alessandro Michele as co-chairs of the Met Gala and what do you get? Camp. This fun and mildly outrageous theme was all about the ways fashion could address irony, humour, theatricality and parody – and we were not disappointed. From Lady Gaga’s strip-tease fashion show (or, ‘a gown within a gown within a gown’) to Zendaya’s light-up Cinderella tribute, there was plenty of camp to be seen.


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Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination (2019)

A slightly controversial theme when it was announced, Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination examined the evolution of fashion’s relationship with Catholicism. We saw plenty of halos, angel wings, stained glass and bejewelled crosses, as well as references to religious figures like the Pope, Joan of Arc (another brilliant Zendaya moment) and even the Vatican itself (kudos goes to Ariana Grande for this one).


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Rei Kawakubo/Comme des Garçons: Art of the In-Between (2017)

Themed around the work of fashion designer Rei Kawakubo, the Met Gala’s 2017 theme celebrated the designer’s avant-garde approach – with guests similarly encouraged to challenge convention with their gala outfits. It was dubbed one of the trickiest dress codes ever due to theme bordering on haute couture and absurdity, but looks that came out on top included Rihanna, Gigi Hadid and Zendaya.


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Manus x Machina: Fashion in an Age of Technology (2016)

A theme that still remains relevant today, the 2016 Met Gala explored how fashion designed reconciled handmade (manus) and machine-made (machina) in the creation of garments – while raising questions on the distinction between haute couture and ready-to-wear. Glittering looks came from Beyonce, Blake Lively and Zoe Saldana, while Madonna donned a (revealing) Givenchy look that quickly caught the internet’s attention.


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China: Through The Looking Glass (2015)

Taking a look at how China has fuelled the industry for centuries, China: Through The Looking Glass explored the impact of Chinese aesthetics on Western fashion – with an emphasis on Chinese costumes, paintings, porcelains, films and artwork. Rihanna, forever one to nail the Met Gala dress code, notably turned heads for wearing a trailing, golden yellow coat handmade by Chinese couturier Guo Pei.


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Charles James: Beyond Fashion (2014)

Another designer-focused theme, 2014 celebrated the life and work of English-American couturier Charles James. More specifically, the theme highlighted James’s design process and his sculptural, scientific and mathematical approach to design – and how he continued to influence modern day designers.


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What Is This Year’s Theme?

The theme for the 2024 edition of the Met Gala is Sleeping Beauties: Reawakening Fashion, and is a celebration of the garments and accessories in the Metropolitan Museum’s collection that are now too fragile to be worn. Alongside the Met Gala’s overarching theme, the dress code for the event is ‘The Garden of Time’ – a reference to J.G Ballard’s 1962 short story of the same name, which follows the demise of two lovers’ utopian lives.

You can read more about what to expect from the 2024 Met Gala here.

Clock in white room surrounding by silver lighting stands

Image courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Image: Nick Knight, 2023.

Featured image: Diane Picchiottino, Unsplash